When you think of introducing solids to your baby, thoughts normally gravitate towards baby oatmeal, tiny spoonfuls of mashed bananas and jars of purees. These days, however, more and more parents are skipping baby food altogether in favor of moving right to table food. These baby led weaning for beginners tips will help you understand how all this works and why you may want to give it a try.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
To boil it down and simplify, baby lead weaning for beginners is the process of letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. It’s called baby-led because that’s exactly what the point is—to let your baby feed him or herself right from the start.
As most babes are not excellent with hand-eye coordination just yet, this means no spoonfuls of purees. Instead, babies should eat whole, healthy foods like chicken, avocado and whatever else you are feeding the rest of the family for dinner (with a few small modifications).
If you are new to the parenting world or are maybe re-entering it after several years, this all may be a bit shocking and sound pretty odd. However, proponents say there are many pros to this method.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning for beginners has several pros and cons that you’ll need to consider when deciding if this is the right feeding method for you and your child. Some of the pros include:
- No accidental overfeeding. As the baby will regulate his or her food intake and therefore stop when he or she is full, there is little chance that a baby can overeat. With traditional weaning, a parent might accidentally overfeed their baby.
- Baby will enjoy a wider variety of foods. Eating the same bland cereal and purees day after day has got to feel monotonous to anyone. In BLW, your child will be exposed to a wide variety of foods, which will help him or her develop a more advanced palate.
- Help prevent allergies. A number of studies have shown that babies who consume potential allergens such as peanut products and fish while young may actually be less likely to have food allergies later in life.
- Easier to travel and run errands. Imagine taking your baby out for the day and not having to bring coolers of purees and snacks. With BLW, your child can eat whatever you eat a restaurant (within reason).
- Advanced hand-eye coordination. All that lifting food to their mouths and eating takes a good amount of coordination. Babies who do this for multiple meals have a head start in this area over those who are spoon-fed by mom and dad.
While there are certainly a lot of great things baby lead weaning for beginners can offer, that doesn’t mean it is an ideology without flaws. Some of the cons parents need to be aware of include:
- It can be very messy. Believe it or not, your baby may fling some of that table food around. This is where a dog can come in handy and help pull their weight! 🙂
- Lower iron. Iron levels can drop significantly when a baby goes from milk to baby-led weaning because a lot of iron-rich foods are difficult to chew and therefore avoided.
- More limitations on family meals. While BLW offers a lot of variety, there are still foods you can’t feed your baby until they are older, so you’ll need to adjust family meals accordingly.
- It can be scary. Handing your child a banana and watching him or her try to bite a chunk out of it is kind of terrifying. Plus, babies have a very strong gag reflex and each gag may get your heart pounding!
6 Tips to Get Started with Baby Led Weaning
If you have decided you want to give baby lead weaning for beginners a try, here are some helpful tips and tricks to make the transition a smooth one for you and your child.
1) Wait until your baby is ready. There are specific signs of readiness parents should watch for in their child. Your baby should be about six months of age and have the ability to sit up with excellent neck control. Additionally, your child should show interest in your food—this can include them leaning forward and opening their mouth or grabbing for your fork.
2) Don’t allow yourself to get too stressed. In case you couldn’t tell…babies are tiny and so are their stomachs! While it may not seem like they ate enough to you, it doesn’t take much to fill their little tummies. Plus,milk or formula is still their main source of nutrition until 10-12 months.
3) Model by example. Eat at the same time your baby eats, and make sure to not force them to eat too much. Your child will eventually wise up if you are constantly eating junk food and giving them broccoli, so use this time as an opportunity to clean up your diet and instill good nutrition in your little one.
4) Prep the area for a mess. Yes, it will definitely be messy. To help contain the mess a bit, give your baby a little bit of food at a time. You can also purchase disposable placemats to use when you eat out in public or a waterproof mat for under the high chair at home.
5) Be vigilant for choking hazards. No matter how you feed your baby, you need to be extra careful. Watch videos online to learn the difference between choking and gagging so you know the warning signs and can act accordingly when your child is in trouble.
6) Get the temp right. Your baby’s food should be slightly warm or slightly cold—try to avoid extreme temperatures!
10 Safe Starter Foods for Babies without Teeth
If you’re ready to get started and want suggestions on the best baby led weaning for beginners starter foods, here are 10 soft baby-friendly foods to start with. Remember that foods should be cut into baby-friendly wedge shapes your child can grasp and gnaw on. A good rule of thumb is to cut foods the size of your finger.
- Steamed soft carrots
- Boiled chicken
- Grilled fish (without bones)
- Soft cheeses
- Steamed veggies like broccoli or green beans
- Cooked sweet potatoes
- Ripe fruit such as pear, peaches or melon cut into wedges
9 Baby Led Weaning Recipes to Try
If you’re looking for baby-friendly recipes the whole family can enjoy during your baby led weaning journey, these ideas are sure to be a hit!
Super Healthy Pizza Muffins for baby led weaning | Baby Led Feeding
Apple Cinnamon Muffins | My Kids Lick The Bowl
Mac and Cheese | Twins and Coffee
Easy Pesto Chicken and Broccoli Pasta | Gimmie Delicious
Baked Sloppy Joes | Six Sister’s Stuff
Baked Salmon Nuggets | My Kids Lick The Bowl
Cheese and Chive Stuffed Baby Potato Skins | Baby Led Feeding
Helen’s sweet potato & red pepper stew | Jamie Oliver
Chicken Soft Tacos | Parents
If you’re thinking so skipping baby purees and moving straight to solids with your little one, I hope these baby led weaning for beginners tips, foods, and recipes help make your journey easier and more delicious!